New class in Lee County prepares students for advanced algebra

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

SALTILLO – Saltillo High School senior Keri Eldridge isn’t so worried about taking college algebra any more.
That’s because Eldridge, 18, has spent the past semester enrolled in a college algebra prep class at her school. Lee County offered the class for the first time this spring at each of its three high schools – Saltillo, Shannon and Mooreville.
The class did not provide credit since it was not officially sanctioned by the Mississippi Department of Education. Instead, it helped the students prepare for what proves to be one of the most difficult college classes. In announcing the class, Lee County Superintendent Mike Scott cited national statistics that indicate that 40 to 60 percent of students enrolled in college algebra classes either fail or withdraw.
“The class gave everyone confidence for next year,” Eldridge said. “It is really not going to be that bad. You just have to keep your head on straight when in college …
“I feel better about it. It is all about how you prepare. This is the first year we had this class, and I bet over half the people who took it will do so much better.”
Brenda Spearman, who taught the course at Saltillo High School, treated it as a college-level class during the first nine weeks, with students moving rapidly through the material and taking multiple quizzes and tests, plus a final exam.
She then used the second nine weeks to go back over the material and focus primarily on the areas that caused students difficulty.
She said that if the students keep their notebooks, they should be well prepared to take the course in college. She said it should be exactly parallel with anyone’s college algebra course.
Two Saltillo students, Bethanne Herring and Sara Kate Blankenship, enrolled in a college algebra night class while also taking Spearman’s class. Both easily passed the ICC course, receiving an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ respectively.
“It was good to have an hour-and-half lesson every single day,” said Herring. “We always have this class, and it helps keep our minds fresh.”
All three of the courses’ teachers; Spearman, Shannon’s George Gregory and Mooreville’s Jan Stembridge; have taught algebra classes at the community college level.
Spearman said that at ICC, she has had several students in their 30s and older who just need to pass college algebra in order to graduate. That is why it is so important for students to get that class out of the way early, she said.
Her students said that the class helped them with more than just algebra.
“I think this class doesn’t only prepare you for math in college, it prepares you for college in general,” said Anna Jones, 17.
That is because students have gotten a chance to see what the tests are like and how quickly they must learn the information. Spearman also spoke with them about how to take notes in college.
“I feel like I know what is coming,” Herring said. “We know it is no joke and it is a job.”

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@journalinc.com.